“Moving,” “important,” and, most of all, “thank you,” — these are the words that are penned over and over again in the guest book at Fovea Exhibitions. Fovea has brought the work of world-renowned photojournalists to its Beacon gallery as part of a mission to fuel discourse on the current events and humanitarian issues of our time. The gallery has tackled issues ranging from the plight of gorillas in the Congo to a look inside America’s correctional system to the impact of wars in Iraq, Darfur, Rwanda and Lebanon.
It’s impossible to experience Fovea’s exhibition space on Beacon’s Main Street without being affected by the intensity of the images on the walls. One anonymous visitor wrote in the guest book: “Thank you. How strange, even, to give thanks for such searing, almost unbearable images. But their naked honesty, humble and unpretentious, is indeed a strange gift. Tough, extraordinary photos.”
Fovea founders Stephanie Heimann and Sabine Meyer acknowledge that provoking a raw emotional response is intentional. “It’s about raising awareness that isn’t necessarily part of the everyday landscape of our community,” says Meyer. “A lot of people think they’re walking into a cute little gallery, and they’re hit by something they did not expect that makes them really look and really read.”
The idea for this non-profit exhibition space and educational charity grew out of Heimann’s work as a photo editor at Newsweek. “We were looking at the raw takes from photojournalists sending in stories from the field,” says Heimann of herself and several colleagues, “and we thought it was a loss to the public to not be able to see more of these stories.” Heimann began her photographic career as a photojournalist, covering the first war in Chechnya and post-Soviet culture.
Heimann did the arduous work of setting up a non-profit organization, but it was only when she moved to Beacon and met Meyer that Fovea became a physical reality. Meyer had moved to Beacon several years prior and loved the notion of opening a photo gallery.
“When I got to Beacon I saw a lot of people were really putting action where their convictions were,” says Meyer, who was the photo director for National Geographic Adventure at the time. “I felt like if there was ever a moment for me to [open a photo gallery] this was it.” The two teamed up to find a space among the antique shops and more traditional galleries that were springing up on Main Street. The first exhibit opened in May 2007, and Heimann and Meyer spent the next two years using their daily commutes to New York City to develop the exhibition schedule and educational programs.
Fovea's reach quickly expanded beyond the gallery’s walls. Heimann and Meyer organized educational tours of students through the gallery, as well as visits of photojournalists to local schools to talk to kids about their experiences in the field. They designed activities related to the exhibits to teach concepts of geography, conservation and geopolitics. They have produced panel discussions on issues tied to the exhibitions as well as outdoor slideshow projections. “The students were visually engrossed but also moved emotionally," read the comments of one teacher whose class visited the exhibit of Palani Mohan’s work on the vanishing Asian elephant. “They had questions on all aspects of the work, from the tending of the elephants to the methods of large format digital printing… this was a fabulous experience for all my students.”
Heimann recalls one girl about 10 years of age, who was visiting the gallery as part of the educational outreach, and whose father worked in security at Sing Sing. The show on display was Andrew Lichtenstein’s “Behind Bars,” which documented life in correctional facilities across America. “I’ll never forget [the girl] said ‘sometimes my dad comes home and he’s very loud and angry — and now I look at these pictures and I can sort of understand the kind of day he had.’”
Kelly Kingman lives in Beacon and writes about food and other topics. Her latest project is stickyebooks.com.
Continue reading about the gallery's journey here.